From what I hear some liberals saying, public opinion is overwhelmingly backing health reform and only special interests and cowardice are blocking congress from enacting it. And from what I hear some conservatives saying, public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to reform and liberals are just fooling themselves. The reality, according to Gallup, is that public opinion is doing very little to constrain members of congress:
Not only is the median voter seemingly indifferent, but the indifferent share of the population is quite large. What’s more, the pro and con sides are basically the same size. If you’re a member of congress and you want to vote “yes,” you can get away with it. And if you’re a member of congress and you want to vote “no,” you can get away with that, too. Ultimately, members of congress strike me as extremely reluctant to ever admit that they often operate under rather loose political constraints, but the fact of the matter is that they often do. Presidential speeches aside, what this ultimately comes down to is members deciding, on their own, what they want to do.